Sarai flew to Austin a couple weeks ago for SXSW, taking BART to the airport around 10:30am. I’m a nice guy and so I drove her to the BART station so she wouldn’t have to carry her bags the 3/4 mile or so walk from our apartment. I pulled up in front of the entrance to the station, wished her a good trip, and drove away. Elapsed time maybe one minute but probably closer to about 30 seconds. This morning in the mail I got a parking ticket from AC Transit for “Parking/stopping in a bus zone”, and the cop had written in “Driver dropped off a passenger”. The fine? $250. Fucking hell.
I did a little googling and found that AC Transit has a nice little racket going here. This post on the Capricious Commuter blog has a series of comments spanning 18 months from people who have gotten these tickets when dropping people off. It seems they’ve been staking out the bus zones at a number of east bay BART stops and photographing and ticketing anyone who stops at them, no matter how briefly. I’m sure these tickets, at $250 a pop, provide a nice revenue stream for the county. Maybe that’s why the designated passenger loading zone is so far away and difficult to see.
Our local station, MacArthur BART in Oakland, has a one-way travel lane that runs along the front of the station. Most of this is a red curb bus zone, including the area directly in front of the station entrance. Only after going back there today to take some pictures did I realize that there is actually a passenger loading zone, 50 yards (I measured it) down from the entrance and nearly impossible to see when there are buses and vans parked along the curb. They sure don’t call any attention to it, but I guess that would cut into the revenue stream from the tickets. This isn’t technically entrapment, of course, and this arrangement may not even be intentional, but they’re certainly taking advantage of the ignorance of drivers in order to write these outrageous tickets. If keeping the bus zone clear were the primary concern a simple sign directing people to the passenger zone would probably work wonders.
My first thought was to fight it, as it would be easy to demonstrate just how invisible this passenger zone is from the position of a car entering the lane in front of the station. But then I realized that I’d be in an Alameda county courthouse arguing against what’s obviously a big money maker for the county so my chances of getting it thrown out are basically nil. It seems others have tried and failed as well.
I was in front of the BART station for about an hour today taking pictures and saw at least a dozen cars stop briefly in this bus zone to drop off or pick up passengers. I warned a few people who were sitting there waiting about the fines and none of them had any idea that there even is a passenger zone at this station. Luckily for them, AC Transit didn’t seem to have the station staked out this morning.
I guess the rules don’t apply to them though, as demonstrated here by this unattended AC Transit SUV parked in a red zone on 40th st. and blocking one of their own buses.